There is more crude oil under Alberta than in the entire Middle East, according to Gerry Hildebrandt.

Hildebrandt, manager of the SAP applications unit for Petro Canada in Calgary, said that traditional oil stock in western Canada is drying up. But under the ground there is a whole lot of bitumen. An incredibly thick crude, oil that is.

“We have property in Port MacKay and there is bitumen in the ground. We are trying new technology to get it out of the ground. They drill into the ground and push steam into the space which heats up (the bitumen) and turns it into liquid so they can pump it out,” he explained.

Hildebrandt said that eventually, if this all works out, all oil will come from bitumen.

The refinery in Edmonton would receive the liquefied bitumen and convert it to oil. Hildebrandt said life would be easier if both the Port MacKay Oil Sands project and the Edmonton refinery worked on the same software.

His bosses agreed and within the next year, the SAP solution running in Edmonton will find its way to Port MacKay.

Petro Canada started working with SAP in 1993, and the Edmonton refinery has been running enterprise systems on SAP since 1996.

Hildebrandt said that in 1997, a very stable SAP environment was established.

“It’s one our users are comfortable with and one that we see a lot more opportunity with,” he said.

The SAP solution that Petro Canada will be bringing to the Oil Sands project has nine modules including, MySAP Financials, MySAP Human Capital and My SAP Product Life Cycle Management.

Wayne Regehr, vice-president of field operations for the western region of SAP Canada, said many of the challenges of this implementation are being borne by Petro Canada.

“Due to the competency that Petro Canada has developed in our solution, largely internally, they were able to adjust the solution to meet the different requirements of the oil sands division as compared to the (Edmonton) unit,” Regehr said.

He added that the SAP products are designed to be very flexible to allow for in-house customization.

He also said this seems to be the beginning of a lifelong relationship.

“We are excited about Petro Canada’s use of our products in a life cycle – that they will continue to grow with our products.”

Hildebrandt agreed saying that it is obvious SAP invests in research and development and Petro Canada can benefit from that.

He said it spent the last three months figuring out what the requirements would be and there is a really good fit with its existing implementation.

“Yes, there will be some customization and some new interfaces, but the developers think the implementation will go quickly,” he said.

To ensure that it was making the right choice, Petro Canada did some benchmarking work, including an employee survey.

“We got users to talk about SAP versus our old legacy systems, and about 60 per cent of users felt SAP was better,” Hildebrandt said.

He said that this implementation across the board will allow the organization to get rid of 40 legacy systems.

Roy Hauschildt, manger of accounting for Oil Sands, said right now the company is using PeopleSoft in his office. He noted that everyone likes it, but they are looking forward to the integration the SAP product will bring.

“Not because the PeopleSoft product couldn’t offer integration, but because everyone will be on SAP, that will be a definite positive,” he said.

Hauschildt said other functions he is looking forward to using are the online capabilities and the drill down functions and the ease of retrieving information.

He noted he used to work with SAP, was switched, and now he is finally going home.

“The training will happen in October so the roll out will hopefully be Nov. 1,” he said. “Everyone is looking forward to this and feeling very positive about the switch.”

Hildebrandt said next he would like to focus on some of the CRM functions of the SAP products. “We want to make sure we are utilizing the full system.”